It’s amazing the leaps and bounds that technology has made in recent years considering that this car is really driving itself.
I don’t think it’s possible to buy a fully automatic car right now, no one I know owns one; the richest of my friends has a car that makes it easier for him to drive on highways, but nothing more.
This car instead came to pick me up at the dock, and from there it moved automatically to our destination without me having to do or say anything. There is not even the steering wheel above, nor a “control panel”. There is only a radio and four very comfortable seats.
It’s amazing, but it’s also true that it’s easy for this car to drive itself. There is nothing here that can hinder his movements, and the road traveled is perfectly straight.
What a strange place.
After a short but comfortable journey the car slows down, and with a couple of quick and precise maneuvers it parks right in front of the gate of the villa where I will soon be working; when the engine stops, the belt removes itself, and the car door opens automatically.
I go out stretching myself; I feel like someone just gave me a long massage… traveling in this car was an indescribable luxury.
The trunk opens in the meantime so I go there to retrieve my bag, and once took it my phone vibrates. I take it in hand, and I notice that the number I saved as “boss (?)” is calling me.
<<Hello?>> I answer while I put on the headphones so as not to have to hold the phone in my hand.
<<Hey big boy, have you arrived?>> answers a cheerful and feminine voice.
<<Hi Hanna! Yes, I am here in front of the house! The journey was long, this island is big even if … well, there isn’t much to see around here.>> I say while looking around <<But it’s huge.>>
<<Oh yeah, it is! Now I open you, wait.>>
The gate makes a fairly familiar sound, so I walk towards it and notice that it has opened.
<<I’m inside. >> I say crossing it <<Wow … what a luxury! I didn’t think fashion agencies made so much money.>>
<<You like it, huh?>>
<<Absolutely. It’s super cool here. And then the floor is not bad at all. It’s super soft. It really seems to be walking on a cloud.>>
<<Told you that removing your shoes was the right move to do! The floor can also absorbs bad odors and humidity, and it changes color. When you have to clean it turns very white, so you can immediately see both the dust and the crumbs. While at night it gets darker, so it doesn’t bother your sight.>>
I reach the door of the villa, but it is still closed. Believing that Hanna is on the other side I stop out here waiting for her to open it, and in the meantime I study the colors of the structure, which are very bright and defined: yellow, white, gray, blue, red, green and brown.
<<Ehm … I’ve arrived.>> I say on the phone after waiting a bit.
<<Come closer. The house is mostly automatic.>>
I approach the door, which opens sideways as promised; in fact, now that I notice it, the door doesn’t even have a handle. It’s fully automatic.
Behind it there is an illuminated and tidy atrium.
<<Wow … >> I say once more <<Fuck, uh, I meant … damn! It’s beautiful!>>
<<Good. I’ll introduce you to the house now, step by step. And I’ll tell you the rules too. Are you ready?>>
<<Leave your bags at the entrance, so you don’t get heavy.>>
As expected the villa is very large.
There is a modern kitchen with a bar counter and a direct access to the garden which enjoys what looks like a small artificial thermal pond.
Also connected to the kitchen is the dining room equipped with a giant TV, a very comfortable sofa, a small bookcase and many other interesting things that I have not been able to look well.
On the upper floor there should be the bedrooms, but I cannot go there because I will sleep in another place and that area is closed to me; apparently I am even forbidden to take the stairs.
However, I am allowed to go down the stairs, but underneath I did not find a cellar as I expected, but much more.
There is a super-equipped and gigantic underground gym, also equipped with a large shooting range and a ring for combat sports; the gym looks superb and modern, and I think I will use it a lot if I am allowed to do so, as I am quite a sporty type.
The gym isn’t the only thing I’ve seen. There are corridors leading to other underground areas, most of them closed though; in addition to the gym only two other areas are open, but when I looked into one of them a very bad feeling of discomfort and bad mood hit me: Hanna explained to me that that place is a sort of dump, and in fact it is called “Furnace” because apparently the waste is burned there.
The other available area is the warehouse, a place where food is kept fresh in large refrigerators. The cool thing? The warehouse is directly connected to the kitchen, and there is also a small lift that is used to bring boxes or large containers upstairs.
Exploring it in a superficial way, I realized that the warehouse is really large … and some things contained there are quite unusual. What are these gigantic … cages for?
Now I’m back in the hall. Hanna just told me where I will sleep, which is in a small separate building in the garden.
<<Okay … but where are you?>> I ask at this point.
<<Yes. You’re not at home, right?>>
<<No. I hardly ever come home.>>
<<If I would, your presence would not be needed, would it? You are here to guard the little ones while I’m out.>>
<<Yeah, you’re right.>> I say looking around with a bit of confusion; my suitcase have disappeared <<By the way, where are they? At school?>>
<<They are out, but they will be back soon.>>
<<The phone will warn you when they enter.>>
<<Yes. The application of the house allows you to keep the entire structure under control. It will also often send you messages where you will be told what you need to do. Follow every order and every advice. It will help you do your job smoothly.>>
<<Cool! I didn’t install the application though. How do I do it?>>
<<Don’t worry, installation is automatic for those who come to work here. You should already have it.>>
<<Wait, really? >> I ask pulling the phone out of my pocket <<Interesting …>> I add while I notice that there really is a new application dedicated to the house on the “home” screen.
<<And that was all. Remember to always listen to what the little ones have to say to you. In my absence they are the bosses, understood?>>
<<Good. Enjoy your stay. In your room you will find a private bathroom with a whirlpool! I advise you to make use of it immediately. In the wardrobe you will also find clothes of your size, the jumpsuit that you will have to wear to stay here. Please, do not go around the house without the suit.>>
<<You’re welcome! Goodby, big boy.>>
The phone call ends.
I go back to look around with a bit of confusion … I am in the hall and I had left my bag here. Where did it go? It was right here at the front door.
The phone vibrates. Did I get a message? Did Hanna forget to tell me something? Afterall, besides her nobody writes to me anymore.
I check, and I notice that it was the house itself who wrote to me; apparently the application that installed itself also has a notification system.
I open the message and read: “Welcome to Villa Borqued number H28! It will be a pleasure to have you as a servant! Get to your dorm!”
Dorm? It’s talking about the building located in the garden?
The screen on the phone changes automatically showing me what looks like a compass; “Follow the arrow!” says an inscription while the arrow points towards the hall.
What the hell …?
Oh well, let’s follow it. Let’s see where it takes me.
The arrow leads me to the garden and then to the building dedicated to the servants, which is seems to be a studio apartment.
As I approach it the door opens by itself, showing me a dormitory that can accommodate up to 25 people. The beds are completely bare though, only one has blankets and pillows… so I guess that’s mine.
I approach it and touch it with one hand; the mattress is exquisitely soft, it seems filled with water, while the blankets have a delicious smell of laundry. Someone must have recently washed them, the same person who took my bags I guess.
The phone vibrates; another message from the house.
“Hot bath in preparation”.
While I read it, a sound coming from my left forces me to shift my gaze in that direction, and there I notice a door that just at this moment has opened by itself; beyond the door the light is already on, and there is a noise coming from there, the constant sound of flowing water.
Through the door the first thing I see is the whirlpool tub, which can also be used as a shower if desired.
It is a large tub, designed to be used by several people, in fact it is divided into five equal parts and therefore can be used by five people at the same time; one of the five parts is full of steaming water.
Another message comes to me right now.
“Hot bath ready”.
<<Wow.>> I comment <<Well … thanks, home.>> said that I undress and as suggested by Hanna I take a bath.
The ringtone of the phone wakes me up.
I snap my eyes open and immediately jump to my feet.
Heck, I lay down a moment after my bath and fell asleep right away, this bed really do wonders. And… WOW, I feel like someone first gave me a massage and then filled me with sugar. I have so much energy and will to live that I would feel ready to work even if I had to do it in some ugly mine.
I take the phone in my hand to see who is calling me, but is an alarm from the home application the one emitting the ringtone, warning me that the children have already returned home some time ago.
Oh man! How long have I slept?
I absolutely have to get dressed! With my eyes I quickly look for the pants but… where are they? Did I leave them here…? No, maybe in the bathroom.
I run into the bathroom, but I don’t see them there either. In fact, it looks like I’ve never been here. The tub I used is clean and shiny just like the others and the humidity has completely disappeared … there is no trace of my passage, not even a half a drop of water.
Damn, I’m only wearing my underwear, I can’t let children see me in this state! What happened to my things? And why does this have to happen to me on the very first day of work?
Wait a minute …
I go back to the dormitory and moving towards my closet the latter opens showing me a series of gray suits: t-shirt, elegant jacket, trousers, socks, gloves … everything in here is tailor-made for me.
These must be the suits Hanna told me about.
I get dressed hastily, and once the suit is put on the bottom drawer of the wardrobe opens showing me a gray smartwatch; I don’t need any indications to understand that I have to wear it because by now I understand how this house works.
As soon as I have it on my wrist, the smartwatch vibrates, and looking at it I notice that the house has a job for me to do: it wants me to go to the kitchen and start preparing lunch for the children.
Hell, I’d love to introduce myself before I get to work!
Oh well, I hope they don’t get scared if they see me there.
I leave the dormitory and walk towards the kitchen.
The clothes I’m wearing are weird though … socks, pants and t-shirt are super tight, so much that they seem to stick to my skin, but they don’t bother me, I like the feeling they are leaving on me, and every step I take this feeling increases my desire to get to work.
I feel… charged. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I feel like I can run for hours without stopping, especially with these clothes on. I do not know why … maybe it’s the good smell they have.
I reach the kitchen.
There is no one here.
I really want to go upstairs to see if the kids are in their rooms, but the smartwatch vibrates reminding me of my work.
I move towards the stove, and I notice that there are already the pots and pans I will have to use; next to them there are many ingredients, all fresh and ready to use.
Who prepared this stuff ? The children? Or some other servant?
No, impossible … I should be the only servant in here, mine is the only bed with blankets after all.
A shiver runs through my entire body and I take another look around; the kitchen is totally empty, not even flys are in here, nothing makes noise. It’s all still and silent … so who is the guy that moves things?
My suitcase, my clothes, the pots, the ingredients… who moved all these things? A relative of the children?
The smartwatch vibrates again, so I get to work right away.
The house tells me what to do, it gives me the recipes. This does not bother me, on the contrary the house is very helpful to me. But … there is something wrong. Many ingredients were already out of the pantry and ready to use, but for some of them I am having doubts.
I just used some eggs for example. Touching them I realized that they are very cold, as if they had just come out of the fridge, and thinking about it I don’t remember having seen them before, so… maybe they were in the fridge. And if they were in the fridge, who brought them out? Certainly not me, and I have not even heard the fridge open itself.
It’s so weird … I feel confused.
I finish preparing the first course and place it on the counter behind me, starting to work on the second; the smartwatch vibrates every time I get distracted and always keeps me busy with something to do, so busy that when I finish the second course I turn around and notice that… the first one has disappeared?
Someone took it.
Now I’m starting to get worried. Now I have no more doubts. There is someone in here … someone besides the children.
And speaking of the little ones … where are they? I haven’t seen or heard them yet.
The smartwatch vibrates.
I go back to concentrating on the stove. I finish preparing the second course, and turning to place it on the counter behind me I notice that the first is back… but empty; the dishes are clean however, and the cutlery has not been used.
My heart is beating hard.
Has anyone eaten and then… washed the dishes?
I put the second course on the counter, after which I put the dishes of the first course back in their place and at that point the smartwatch vibrates more intensely.
“Well done! You just gained a twenty-five minute break! You can use them as you want! ” it’s written on the screen, and a 25-minute countdown appears instead of the usual time.
When I look up I notice that the second course has disappeared exactly like the first one.
What is going on? Who’s stealing the dishes right under my nose? Are the children playing some kind of joke on me?
I instinctively move my gaze to the road that leads to the atrium. From there I can reach the stairs leading to the upper floors, where the children are supposed to sleep, but Hanna was clear about it: I can’t go up there.
So what can I do?
Well … I have a 25 minute break, I could use it to find my things. They must be somewhere in the house.
I run towards the servant’s cottage and once inside I inspect it from top to bottom, also looking under the beds and over the wardrobes, but despite this I find neither my suitcase nor my clothes.
When I finally give up, I realize one last thing … perhaps the worst.
My phone has also disappeared.
I am at the gym.
The smartwatch is telling me what exercise to do and how to do it, and I am following its directions to the letter.
I feel good. I feel strong. And training has never given me so much satisfaction in my life. I should be anxious after what happened in the kitchen, I should be distressed after finding out I lost my phone, I should be worried about the situation I am in … I should be scared of this huge, lighted and empty house.
Instead I am calm. Serene. I feel like everything is going well.
But why? I feel confused by my own body.
I knew I should never have accepted that man’s offer, but I didn’t have many other choices. Either this job or … well, better not think about it. The fact is that it is a very uncomfortable job because from here it is impossible for me to go home … if I had it.
And now that I’ve also lost my phone, I really have no way to leave. I can’t even talk to Hanna again! I am completely at the mercy of the house and its… inhabitants.
Yet I’m not worried.
“Well done!” I find written on the smartwatch at the end of my training “You have earned a 25 minute break! Use it as you want. “
Another break … good.
I wipe my sweat but I don’t waste time showering in the gym bathroom. I have 25 minutes to do my research, and I absolutely need to do it.
My body is lazily satisfied though, and it’s tired from the exercises I’ve just done, so every single step is heavy.
Wait … Heavy? That’s strange because just a second before my footsteps were so light that I felt like I was flying. Is it possible that I got so tired all of a sudden? If the house hadn’t told me to stop I would have continued to train without problems.
What’s going on?
I leave the gym and go up the stairs to return to the kitchen.
The dishes are washed and clean, as are the pots, but I didn’t clean them; the living room is as tidy and silent as ever, just like the garden; the silence here is absolute, and …
I hear a voice coming from the living room, and this pushes me to run there to see who is speaking … but I find myself alone in front of the television, which is now on.
False alarm. I don’t even need to wonder who turned it on, as the house did it. Everything is automatic here, after all.
I look at the TV more carefully: the program being broadcast is… wait, I can’t believe it! This is one of the anime I was following when I still had a home! But… what channel are they broadcasting it on? I did not think that certain anime were broadcast on TV! Also because it has not yet been translated into my language, there are still the subtitles.
I don’t see symbols of any kind on the sides of the screen, and I don’t even see the remote control now that I think about it. How can I change the channel?
The volume on the TV turns up slightly. The anime has just started its theme song, and since an episode lasts about 20 minutes I could theoretically sit on the sofa and spend my break watching it.
But who knows what episode it will be. Maybe it’s an episode I’ve seen before, or maybe it’s one I haven’t gotten to yet.
I remain standing in front of the TV waiting for the theme song to end, then … I DON’T BELIEVE IT! This is the exact episode I should have seen that night! I’m so lucky that …
Wait … luck? Could it really be a coincidence?
No… it’s not a coincidence. The house clearly knows my tastes, so maybe it’s even aware of what was the last episode I saw … But how?
Okay… let’s play its game for now.
I sit on the sofa and… WOW. It’s so soft, so comfortable … I feel so good up here.
I put my feet on the table in front of me, and looking to my left I see… a bottle of sparkling water? It’s fresh, it looks like it just came out of the fridge. Who …?
I take it, open it, drink it and focus on the anime.
When the episode ends, the TV screen turns completely white and a grey text appears above it.
“Break’s over! Go to the garden! You have to water the plants! “
I get up.
I am full of energy. Generally the idea of watering plants would have dried every single drop of energy in my body, but this is not happening. I feel so energetic that if I want I could start watering an entire forest.
I go out into the garden, and right in front of the french window I find all the tools I need for my work.
I take them and, without asking questions, I follow the instructions that the house sends me on the smartwatch.
This house is very weird.
The first job it made me do was cooking, but that doesn’t surprise me: I knew I would have to cook once I accepted this job.
The second task it gave me was to train though, and while the third was to water the plants, the fourth task was to meditate.
What kind of jobs are these? But more importantly… why am I getting paid to train in a gym and meditate? I do not understand.
Once evening fell I cooked dinner for both myself and the children, but once again I didn’t see or hear them.
Going out into the garden it was possible to notice that the upstairs lights were on, so someone had to be there. But then I noticed another thing: all the lights in the house are on. All time. They never go off and it is impossible to turn them off because there are no switches either.
In the garden I also noticed another thing. One thing that should have killed me with fear … but that at that moment did not have any kind of effect on me.
The sky was black. Completely black. Moon, stars, clouds … there was nothing up there, and it was so dark outside that the house seemed to be the only thing in the world.
Such a thing should have made me scream in fear. I know because I know myself. Instead I remained calm and composed. I was not afraid of the total and unnatural darkness that I was seeing.
I slept in the servant’s house around 11pm; as soon as I put my head on the pillow I fell asleep, and I don’t remember dreaming anything … I only remember opening my eyes “a second later”, only to find myself at the dawn of the next day.
I took a shower, put on my suit (clean and perfumed), and finally… well, finally here I am.
I have just finished having breakfast, and theoretically the children too have done it. I didn’t hear them coming downstairs though, that means they’re still up there … so now I just have to do it. Yes, I can’t wait any longer. I must do it. I have to go up the stairs and see what’s up there.
My 25 minute break has just started. There is no better time to do it.
I take a deep breath and …
What’s this? Anxiety? A lot of anxiety. Well … I won’t get intimidated so easily.
I approach the atrium stairs, and in addition to anxiety I begin to feel something else … anguish? No, something worse. Fear.
I’m afraid to climb these stairs. But why? Am I afraid of being fired maybe? Hanna told me that the stairs are off limits … so yeah, I might get fired for this.
But I have no choice. This house is too strange. And it makes me feel strange too.
Hanna will understand me.
I put one foot on the first step and… oh my … Why is my leg so heavy? I trained too much yesterday. Not to mention all the dishes I cooked and the effort I put into working in the garden… God, I’m so tired. I should really rest.
I’m out of breath. I feel like I will puke very soon. I’m too tired.
But … but it’s just a flight of stairs! I can’t feel so tired after taking just one step!
I put one foot on the second step and… ouch, my knee! And the back too! Man, I really need a massage right now. The elbows, the fingers, the neck, even the eyelids… it all hurts!
But this is not normal.
No, it can’t be normal.
I try to climb a little more, and …
Oh my God … what am I doing? Hanna said it’s forbidden to be here! And now she will fire me! Yes, she will, because she is seeing me! It is clear that she is seeing me! There are cameras! And I’m sure that the person who moves things while I’m not looking is also spying on me right now, hidden who knows where!
I look around with concern: where is he? Who is in here?
But what if there really isn’t anyone here? What if this is actually a ghost house? What if Hanna was dead and is her spirit that moves things? Oh no … oh no what am I doing?
The heart is beating so strongly that it could stop at any moment.
I look up and … I don’t see anyone. There is nobody beyond the stairs. Yet I feel observed, as if something up there is watching me. Something invisible … the ghost! And it’s getting closer! I feel it!
HERE IT COMES!
I back away so fast that I fall to the ground.
Now I’m entirely in the hall again.
I scratch my head, then get up.
What … happened? Why did I fall down the stairs like a fool?
I touch my chest, but my heart seems to be beating at normal speed now; I touch my knees, but I don’t feel pain coming from there; I jump on the spot, but I don’t feel any kind of physical tiredness or discomfort.
Does this just mean that … I imagined everything? Even the ghost must have been a figment of my imagination, because now I do not perceive anything around me and more importantly I am no longer afraid.
Well, it’s clear that I can’t go up there, so I approach the front door of the house but unlike the others it does not open. It remains closed. And since there is neither a handle nor a button, the message that the house is letting me through is clear : I can’t leave.
But what if I want to go out? Is it possible that I really can’t? This is illegal! The house is practically kidnapping me! But now that I think about it … even if I went out, where could I go? This is practically the most isolated villa in the world, and I have no other places to go anyway.
There is no way out of here. And to be honest I don’t even want to go out. I have nowhere to go.
Ignoring the stairs leading to the upper floor, I walk towards the living room.
The TV is on, and there is the theme song for my favorite anime that invites me to sit on the sofa.
And I see no reason to refuse.